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Django

Biopic about the life of Django Reinhardt, perhaps the greatest jazz guitarist of all time. Django and his quintet popularized "gypsy jazz" in France in the years leading up to and during WWII, with some of the most lovely music I've ever heard (bias warning: I am a fan and have been for a long time). If you don't know anything about Django Reinhardt, prepare for a wonderful discovery.

While the film is not perfect (it seems to take some liberties with at least a few plot details - hey, it's an historical drama, not a documentary), it does get the music wonderfully right, the performances seem mostly solid, and it does tell at least a small bit of the story of the persecution of Gypsy (Roma) people - a group usually lumped in as just one on the long list of those brutalized by the Nazis and thus often overlooked. The music carries this film nicely (it's really very well-done), allowing me to overlook the film's flaws. Best of all, it captures (I would imagine) some of the feel of life in prewar France and during the German occupation. And oh, that music...

My only disappointment was the absence of Stéphane Grappelli from the film (he apparently had fled to London, per a mention in the film), although a lot of the music depicted in the film sure sounded like that was him playing wonderfully on violin (so he almost seems present much of the time they're playing).

If you are a fan of jazz (or are at least open to learning about beautiful music), if you have a soft spot in your heart for France, this is a very enjoyable film. It'll make you want to light up a Gauloises (even if you despise smoking as I do), put on a scratchy, thick record of Le quintette du Hot Club de France, dream of the Liberation, and start shopping for flights to CDG. What a life, what a time it must have been, and what incredibly rich musical treasures they left us!

A 2018 release, it's in French (of course, as it should be) with English subtitles. Should be available from the usual places (I got it on blueray from Netflix). I loved it (obviously). Maybe you will like it, too.

Rare footage of Quintett du Hot Club de France - Reinhardt and Grappelli in 1945
Some wonderful recordings to whet your appetite:
Minor Swing
After You've Gone
The Sheik of Araby
Oriental Shuffle
Charleston
Echoes of France/La Marseillaise

Yeah, not bad for a guy with just two working fingers on his left hand...

Posted by
2919 posts

David , Many Thanks , I just ordered a blu ray copy from Amazon . I have long been a fan of this music and am looking forward to it . If you are unfamiliar with these musicians from Florence , give a listen . Like Django , they are Roma , and the violinist is spectacular . His pitch , technical prowess and interpretive talents are in the best tradition of Grapelli and the hot club . - https://youtu.be/7t3xBqAWLaU The first cut , a passerby sits in on Bass

Posted by
5017 posts

Steven - wow, great stuff! Thank you. It's been years since I visited Florence, I guess now I have another reason to go. If I stumbled on these guys, I'd say the heck with the Duomo, I'd just sit and listen for hours. They're great - violinist is amazing (and that Korean guy who walked up and worked the bass was no slouch either.

I see lots of older videos of them posted on YouTube....do you know if they are still active? (I'd be bummed if I flew to Firenze to see them and they had stopped playing on the street!)

Seeing things like this make me feel better about our world. Thank you!

Posted by
2919 posts

We were last in Florence in Autumn of 2018 , and they were still there . They seemed to turn up in a variety of spots , but mostly in The Piazza Della Repubblica .

Posted by
2919 posts

By the way , while this is different music , it's also great work . Max Raabe and The Palast Orchester have been around since the eighties , they hail from Berlin . The charts are spectacular as are the performances . Twenties and thirties dance band work from Berlin and the States , I've wanted to see them live , but haven't been able to catch them when in Berlin or Munich . I lucked out since they will be at Carnegie Hall , here in NYC , this April ! Give this a listen when you can , I think you'll love it - https://youtu.be/FiaNQG7HPpc

Posted by
11410 posts

Ah yes. Taking a turn with my DH to Rom Draculas (that group in Florence) one balmy night in Piazza della Repubblica ... Shades of Reinhardt and Grappelli, and a treasured memory, that. :O)

Grappelli did some fun stuff with American mandolin player David Grisman way back.

Posted by
3430 posts

For Django fans, the centre of the universe is Fontainebleu outside Paris at the end of June each year. The annual festival draws star performers, who may or may not have much to do with Roma music, and plenty of amateurs who spend long afternoons under the shade trees trading choruses. The festival used to sit down on a small island in the Seine, Samoir sur Seine. But the main show appears to have moved the the grounds of the chateau itself.. Some activity remains at Samoir sur Seine apparently on the weekend of June 28-29. The chateau programs run July 2-5. Sorry to be confusing, but the website is unclear on some details, with last year's program mixed in with 2020. That confusion, too, is traditional, as the organization takes time to get sorted. But it does promise to sell ticket packages already. See for yourself at
http://www.festivaldjangoreinhardt.com/en/ticket-3/

Posted by
1863 posts

Thank you for sharing. Truly a jazz giant! “Yeah, not bad for a guy with just two working fingers on his left hand.” Incredible!